Summary: If I love God’s Word I will long for, learn and live it
In Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, Kathleen Norris recounts the story of a South Dakota rancher and his bride who received an expensive Bible as a wedding gift from his grandfather. They wrote a thank-you note and stowed the Bible away on a closet shelf.
As time passed, the grandfather repeatedly asked the couple how they liked the Bible. The rancher was confused as to how to respond. Hadn't he already expressed his appreciation? But the grandfather persisted. Eventually, the young man dug out the gift. As he leafed through it, $20 bills fluttered out, 66 in all—one at the beginning of Genesis and another at the start of each succeeding book.
While the rancher had left a monetary treasure waiting to be discovered, he had also left something even more valuable untouched between those pages: spiritual riches. All because he had not opened the Book.
Unfortunately, recent research reveals that is not an isolated occurrence. In a recent study done by Lifeway, 90% of churchgoers agreed with the statement “I desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do”. And 59% percent agreed with the statement “Throughout the day I find myself thinking about Biblical truths”. However, when asked about how often they personally read their Bibles outside a church service, only 19% replied “every day” while 40% read their Bibles once a month or less.
So essentially what the majority of churchgoers here in the United States are saying is this:
I love God, I just don’t love His Word
But the Bible consistently shows us that just can’t be true. It’s not possible to love God and not love His Word. Here’s what Jesus had to say about that:
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
(John 14:21 ESV)
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
(John 14:23 ESV)
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.
(John 15:10 ESV)
In his letters, John confirmed those words of Jesus:
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
(1 John 5:3 ESV)
And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.
(2 John 6 ESV)
It is not possible to love God and not love His Word
When asked why they don’t read their Bibles more, over a third of the people in the survey I mentioned earlier couldn’t give a reason. But among those who did, over a quarter said they don’t prioritize it, 15% said they don’t have time, and 13% said they have read enough of it.
Let’s suppose a similar question was asked about your relationship with your spouse or someone else you claim to love. If you gave those same answers as a reason for why you don’t spend more time with that person, I think we would all immediately conclude that even though you might say you love that person, your actions and attitudes paint a different picture.
And I think the same is true when it comes to the Bible. If you’re not reading it on a regular basis for those kinds of reasons, then the only logical conclusion we can make is that you don’t really love the Bible as much as you might claim to.
As we gather here this morning, pretty much everyone fits into one of three groups:
• There are those of you who genuinely love God’s Word and who read it on a consistent and systematic basis.
• There are some of you who really do have a desire to do that, but you really struggle to actually carry out that desire
• There are some of you who would honestly have to say that you really don’t love God’s Word and you’re not even making an effort to read it consistently
The good news this morning is that the passage we’re going to look at has something to offer all of us regardless of which of those three camps we fall into.
Go ahead and open your Bibles to Nehemiah chapter 8. Hopefully you’ll remember from the last 2 weeks that the book of Nehemiah is the account of the third return of exiles to Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah in 444 BC. [Show chart] The primary purpose of that return was to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem.